My 7 year old looks great in her ‘I’ve been crabbing at Stoke Gabriel’ t-shirt. Something of a crabbing expert, she managed to catch 23 crabs on our last visit. We’ve tried some other crabbing sites and rarely manage to get any crabs in the bucket. On most crabbing adventures at other sites we feel the familiar tug on the line and gingerly start to pull the string up, but halfway up the wall the crab wisely lets go of the bag and jumps back into the water. Not so at Stoke Gabriel. The advantage here when on our holidays in south Devon is that the water is teeming with crabs and yet there is no high wall to navigate. It’s a favourite day out for my three children. We park down by the mill pond and buy bait in the café. The river Shack café is really welcoming. As well as food for us and bait for the crabs they also sell crab lines and buckets. Then we head down to the quayside for some crabbing. We don’t always catch as many as 23 but we usually manage more than 10. Letting the crabs go is as much fun as catching them. We carefully empty the bucket and then guess which crab will be first back to the water. We then cheer them on as they scuttle across the little concrete jetty.
Stoke Gabriel is a village halfway between Paignton and Totnes. It circles picturesquely around a beautifully still mill pond which connects to a quayside on the River Dart. The River itself is tidal, and when the tide is low a long jetty is revealed which can be walked over if you tread VERY carefully. The jetty itself does get very slippy but once safely over it does connect to some lovely riverside walks. On the other side of the pond, closest to the village is a fantastic orchard with a small but excellent play park. The park includes a fantastic pirate ship which is one of my children’s all-time favourite pieces of play equipment in the area. Next to a pub called the Church House Inn are some old stocks which often get used in our pirate games as well.
Behind the play-park is the churchyard with a 900 year old yew tree whose roots are simply spectacular. The tree itself bears an inscription which says that if you walk backwards round the tree seven times then you will be granted a wish. By then we’ve usually had such a nice day that I simply wish to return to Stoke Gabriel again.